Sunderland is a coastal city, located where the River Wear meets the North Sea, in the North East of England. It forms part of a larger urban area centred around Newcastle upon Tyne.
Settlement in the Sunderland area dates back to a Saxon monastery at Wearmouth, built in 674AD by Benedict Biscop. The city's name probably derives from the 'Sunder land' (land divided by the river), land granted to Benedict Biscop in 686AD. The Port of Sunderland has been in evidence for over 800 years, with a charter being granted for maritime commerce in 1154 and a dock in place at least as early as 1382.
Sunderland developed over the centuries as an important port, and in 1840 Sunderland became the world's largest shipbuilding port, with 65 shipyards in operation. The last of these closed in 1988, followed by the closure of the last colliery - a key form of employment in the area - in 1994. Car production took over as the city's dominant industry with the relocation of Nissan to the area, and Sunderland is still undergoing the process of transformation from an industrial economy to one based on the provision of services.
All of the city's high-rise buildings are Council-built tower blocks providing residential accommodation. Once despised, recent refurbishments have transformed Sunderland's tallest buildings into attractive additions to the skyline.